DARIEN CENTER – About the only thing Maceo Wofford couldn’t do Sunday was answer this simple question.
How many Gus Macker Tournament championships does this make for you in your career?
Wofford and his teammates have lost track, but one thing is for certain – Team Breth captured its latest Macker top men’s division championship because Wofford willed them to victory.
The former Jamestown High School star and News Player of the Year scored 11 of his team’s first dozen points, including a game-opening 6-0 run, as Team Breth held on to beat Bottoms Up, 18-12, in the winner-take-all championship game at Darien Lake.
“I just had the will,” said Wofford, who finished that game with 13 points. “No one wants to lose. I can accept losing but I never want to.”
This is the second year in a row the 34-year-old Wofford, who scored 2,259 points for the Red Raiders, has been part of the winning team in the Buffalo/WNY Gus Macker. He along with Steve Breth were part of the Gerald’s Barbershop crew that won it all in 2013. Other members of Team Breth included Dusty Carlson and Dave Bucheit.
While Wofford’s crew won with more balance last year, the current Jamestown assistant coach and former Iona guard proved he still can take over a game, as he did it against a Bottoms Up team featuring past Macker champions Nick Parisi (Bishop Timon-St. Jude), Aaron Turner (St. Francis, Daemen College), Dan Gilbert (University at Buffalo) and former Grover Cleveland standout and U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association Division II All-American Jose Narvaez.
“He’s such a good player, tough to guard,” said 29-year-old Narvaez, who played at University Cincinnati-Clermont. “He’s got a good supporting cast. They hustle. They rebound.”
Narvaez said it was disappointing his team failed to pull out the win coming out of the losers bracket, something the team Parisi played on back in 2011 did when it went 7-0 on Sunday to post a 9-1 mark in the tournament.
“We played real good,” Narvaez said. “These guys hustled.”
Especially Wofford in the finale, who made shots by firing from beyond the arc, by driving baseline and also driving the lane for the occasional floater.
“Nobody can deal with him,” said the 46-year-old Breth, who works for the city of Jamestown. “He does whatever he wants. We do our role, pick and roll, get open shots because most guys are worried about him.”
Bottoms Up suffered its first loss in the tournament to Team Breth in its opening game Sunday, 10-7, - a clash that began at 8:50 a.m. as tournament officials started play early and shortened most games (the top men’s final games were normal length) in an attempt to beat potential rain (it stayed dry but the sun came out well after the top men’s and women’s championships had been decided).
Bottoms Up won the rematch with Team Breth, 20-12, an hour later to set up the all-or-nothing finale. Bottoms Up moved the ball well and kept Wofford silent in its win, but Wofford erupted when it mattered most as Team Breth finished 5-1 in winning the double-elimination tournament.
“We just buckled down, gave the ball to Mace and he did his thing,” Breth said.
“The fun thing is there’s no arguing, no hotheads, no egos,” Wofford said. “We all have the same agenda.”
That’s winning, which the Upstate Lady Ballers had in common with the men’s champion.
Upstate triumphed even though its best player was a late scratch for the championship game in the top women’s division. The team, comprised of former Roberts Wesleyan College players from Rochester, rallied to beat White Girls Can’t Jump, 10-6.
Jaslynn Lee’s deuce from beyond the arc gave Upstate the lead for good, 7-6, with 1:50 left. Teammate Brittany Williams’ second dagger from beyond the arc made it 9-6 seconds later. Williams’ next point, a free throw, clinched the title as the former NAIA Division II players beat a crew featuring current and past players from NCAA Division III Geneseo, including former Mount Mercy standout Melissa Graham.
“At that point, once I hit the two and Brittany followed up, I was like we’re good, we just have to make the last one-point basket,” said Lee, whose other teammate Sunday included Brittany McCray. Shakista Wolfork was the late scratch for the Upstate Lady Ballers, who won their first women’s division title in their Macker debut.
With the move of this year’s Macker to Darien Lake, tournament organizers figured participation numbers would be down. Still, Buffalo Police Athletic League Executive Director Modie Cox was hopeful the event would draw 500 teams. It fell about 100 teams short of that goal, but it should have been expected what with the move from the city to country and the uncertainty surrounding the tournament’s future. Organizers announced the deal to save the Macker and hold the 24th edition of the tournament in May. In past years, the Macker date had been announced by March.
“Numbers don’t always tell the story. The story is people are having a great time,” Cox said.
“I’ve been talking with a lot of people, the participants, the fans and also the referees in terms of the tournament. They liked the tournament.
“The one thing I’m getting is it’s so much better out here. A lot of the negative things that sometimes the city brought, they’re just not having it out here. People are coming out and having a great time. They’re bringing their families and that’s what Gus Macker is supposed to be, a family-friendly event. … We didn’t get the teams we wanted but we know that that will happen.”
Brion Neary, the business development manager for Darien Lake, said organizers hope to be able to move the Macker date back to its traditional second week of June time slot.
List of Macker champions on D5